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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Jan. 26, 2011

How Did Inline Skates Come to Replace Quads?

QHi, Bill: I have a history question. When and how did roller speed skating transition from quad roller skates to inline skates and what was that transition like for the athletes of that period? - Luis in Dallas

Hi, Luis: There was some initial resistance to inline skates in the world of roller speed skating. But in 1992, the governing body for roller sports agreed to allow the use of inlines in three events at the World Championships, which were held in Rome that year.

The three events were the 300m time trial, 10K road race and marathon. In each event, skaters on inlines dominated.

The following year, the federation allowed inlines to be used in all events, except two, as I recall. That year, Worlds were in Colorado. And once again, inlines dominated.

After Colorado, quads virtually disappeared from international competition.

Several months before the World Championships in Rome, I visited California, then a hotbed of inline speed skating. My purpose was to gather information about the inlines to share with skaters on the Australian team, which I coached.

By this time I had already witnessed the potential of inline skates. During a stay in Colombia, I saw Eddy Matzger — on inlines — beat all the top Colombian skaters — who were still on quads — in races on banked track and road. That convinced me that the rest of the world better get on inlines quick smart.

During my California trip, I watched a race from the back of a Rollerblade van and got video of Derek Parra, who later won a gold medal on ice, going on a breakaway.

After the race, I interviewed several of the top skaters, including Parra and Tony Muse, at the house of my friend Curt Labeda. The skaters were very helpful. I told them I was a coach who used to know everything but now knew nothing. They filled me in on the difference in technique between inline and quad skating.

I returned to Perth loaded with information. In fact, thanks to what I learned, I was able to help one of my skaters, Desly Hill, win a place in the history books, becoming the first skater to win a World Championship title (women’s 300m time trial) on inline skates. That was in Rome at the Worlds in 1992.

The speed advantage provided by inlines was obvious that year. The women’s 10K basically turned into two races with the inline skaters forming a lead pack and the quad skaters behind.

Italy's Antonella Mauri and my wife Cheryl Begg had finished second and third (respectively) in the event the year before. But on quads in Rome, they couldn’t keep up.

In the marathon (full for the men, half for the women), the Dutch skaters — who had been on inline skates for years — cleaned up, finishing first and second in both races. But the Dutch revival fizzled a year later when the top quad skaters from the rest of the world became comfortable on inlines.

The move to inline skates was hard on some countries that were slow to adapt, like Italy and New Zealand. It took them years to catch up.

The transition was also hard on some quad skaters, who had to find a new center of balance on inlines and found them more difficult to maneuver. My wife, Cheryl Begg, was one of these. A world champion on quads, she worried she wouldn’t be able to make the final hairpin turn past the finish line of the marathon in Rome on inline skates.

In the early days of inlines, the technology and technique still hadn't been sorted out. That made the transition difficult. These days, inline is all we know.

Cheers, Bill

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